16 December 2010

Don't it make you wanna Colla?

Poderi Colla 2006 Langhe Pinot Noir “Campo Romano” (Piedmont) – A recent closeout, purchased for very few dollars due to the retailer’s belief that it was of dubious quality. Dubious is not inaccurate, but I’m not quite sure how to characterize the qualitative state of the wine as it is now. First, I’m not sure whether or not I’d peg this as pinot noir without knowing same…smelling it while looking at the label, there are some obvious signs in the form of gentle, sweetish-berry and leaf aromatics, but the color (despite a quick fade at the rim) is a bit darker than the already-progressing nose would indicate, and there’s a spiky, very slightly volatile stridency to the aroma that elevates a pineapple-ish stowaway as it evaporates. Structurally – and again, knowing what the wine is when I say this – it speaks more of the Langhe than the grape, with a not-green-but-far-from-soft tannin more reminiscent of dolcetto, or even nebbiolo in its simplest forms, than of pinot noir. There’s no lack of acidity, either...one’s palate is awash in reactive liquids from the first moment this wine is sipped. I can’t say I have much confidence in this bottle’s future, though of course as a closeout its provenance has not been assured, but I don’t know how much I embrace its present, either. Since I didn’t have it at release, it’s hard to say much about it’s trajectory, either. As it stands: a zippy mouthful of conflicted influences, recognizable as what it is and where it’s from, but also challenging those notions, and while tasty enough in need of a calming and/or masking food companion to tame its more brazen inconsistencies. (10/10)

Ata boy

Ata Rangi 2001 Syrah (Martinborough) – Aging faster than the pinot noir from the same house and year, which is probably a combination of site and vine, but could also just mean that more stake is placed on the success of the pinot. A well-read and somewhat intellectual wine with bushy eyebrows, seated in a well-worn leather chair in the corner of a dark, smoky drawing room, dusty tomes and old pipes strewn about the surrounding tables. I don’t know if I’d call it fully mature, yet, but it has probably learned all it is going to from its maturation, and the future might hold more unpredictability. This is the best aged New Zealand syrah I’ve had, but since that personal category is largely unpopulated there’s not much to that qualification. Perhaps more important: it was worth aging. (10/10)

Cloven kloof

Boekenhoutskloof 2006 Semillon (Franschhoek) – As with so many other Boekenhoutskloof wines, the liquid is a micro-proportion of a ridiculously heavy bottle. I suppose they need this much glass to carry the weight of all those letters. One of the better…perhaps even one of the best…whites in South Africa, definitely so if we exclude chenin blancs…and so, in the steenless category, only the Sadie Palladius is obviously better. Anyway: absolutely varietally correct aromas of sweat, fetid grass, diffident unfruit, and something that might be pepper dust were it comprised of antimatter. Yes, this constitutes praise…look, you either get young sémillon or you don’t. This isn’t, it must be said, as unpleasant as the best Hunter Valley semillons. It can be consumed with pleasure right now, thanks to the mitigating structure of crisp grapefruit rind and lemongrass with a dull razor scrape, plus a very lengthy finish. But if the bottle doesn’t collapse inward due to its internal gravity, I suspect there’s ageability here. Or maybe not based on the usual transience of South African clonal material. But I’m hopeful. I am not a detractor of South African wine even though I think there’s a lot of dreck, because I don’t blame the wine industry for a lot of the reasons the wines they make aren’t what they could be, but here’s one that really deserves some attention. (10/10)


Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – A little over-succulent and almost candied on the nose, at first opening. Let’s let it breathe for a bit. […] And we’re done. Blood orange? Yes, that and butterscotch. We’re verging into California chardonnay territory here. More air? Yes, please. […] Settling down, at last, but there’s still an inexorable pumpkin pie element, both aromatically and texturally, that I can’t quite get past. A lot of soil is to the good, but it’s not enough. I admit that all beverages of this type are almost exclusively aromatic pleasures for me; I can enjoy drinking them, but were that all there was to them I’d still to wine. So that the palate here is a little diagonal and slashy, bringing a great deal of heat and white chocolate for which I don’t care, is no big deal. I want to smell, not quaff. And thus, I wish the nosegrab was more enticing. [one hour later] Starting to get a lot better, knitting and filling out, with less of the fetid and more of the elegantly feral. I suspect it might be days before this rounds into form, though. More later. (11/10)

Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – Third night after opening. All the faux candied sweetness is gone, leaving something a lot more elegant. No, that’s not the right word. Sophisticated. Perhaps a little over-jacketed in layers of formality, to be honest. Loosen the bowtie! There’s a lot…a lot…of soft, loamy earth, which I like and find intriguing in a Cognac. But there’s also a planar stuffiness to the finish, as if the brandy has a slight head cold. Or as if that aforementioned bowtie is a little suffocating. (11/10)

Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – Over a week after opening, and everything difficult about this spirit is now gone, replaced by subtleties and shadings. Really quite lovely. Does it live up to its price? Probably not quite, but then I find most Cognac to be rather aspirationally priced to begin with; in context, it’s probably more or less OK. (11/10)


Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Séguret (Rhône) –I gave up on this wine about a year ago, as it had provided tasty post-release quaffing but seemed to be headed towards a rather abrupt expiration. I may have been too hasty, because this is back. I don’t know if much has changed, exactly, but the descending veils have been re-lifted, and the dark, earthy fruit is once more on full display. Perhaps the tannin has faded just a bit? Aside from that, it’s the same wine it was in its highly approachable youth. I’d recommend drinking, but it’s clear I don’t have as firm a handle on this wine as I once thought, so for all I know it’ll be an ager. I’m drinking mine anyway, because that way it won’t continue to prove me wrong. (11/10)

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Séguret (Rhône) – See the previous note, to which this would be pretty much identical. (11/10)

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Séguret (Rhône) – This third bottle, and (I think) my last, is a little more faded and on a trajectory similar to all the previous bottles. So were the last two the anomalies, or is this? Well, it’s now moot unless my friends are stashing some. (11/10)

Snap out of it

Reverie 2005 Barbera (Diamond Mountain) – Thoroughly anonymous. Saccharine red fruit, sickly-sweet oak, and not even all that much acid. A little boozy, though. This is, I’m afraid, what far too many Piedmontese are trying to achieve with their own efforts. Let’s hope they don’t succeed. (10/10)

The patron saint of mediocre French wine chains

Nicolas “Domaine de Bellivière” 2006 Coteaux du Loir “L’Effraie” (Loire) – All the structural elements (a little fruit-sweetness, just enough acidity) are here, and it seems like the wine I know, but it resists attempts to draw anything else forth. Is this just closed, is it off, or is it already fading? The intention was to give it a day or so of aeration to see what might develop, but repetitive puzzled sampling killed that idea. Well, there’s more, so we’ll see what happens to the next one. (10/10)

Over Londer

Londer 2007 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) – Starts with the weird cola/candy thing that used to mar so many California pinots, but that has never been particularly common from the Anderson Valley. So that’s weird. It does eventually round into a sort of form, layering some metallic soils and a still-sweetish red fruit together, but while this is happing the wine flattens and loses some of its life. Not bad, but there’s still work to be done. (10/10)

Expensive balls

Karl Joh. Molitor 2008 Hattenheimer Riesling Spätlese 0013 09 (Rheingau) – Heavy, sticky (this feels far sweeter than it probably is), ponderous, dull. Really uninteresting. (10/10)


Karp-Schreiber 2008 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 10 09 (Mosel) – Sprightly dandelion wine with dusty minerals. Lemongrass, hibiscus, and bergamot. Simple, but of decent length. Whatever this wine is going to do, it’s not doing it yet. (10/10)

Just a seki

Nishinoseki “Tezukirui” Tokubetsu Junmai Sake (Japan) – I’m terrible at discriminating the elements of sake; so much of the core of it tastes more or less fine to me, and I’m often more excited by the gross textural appeal of unfiltered versions than I am of anything more normal. But let’s give it a shot. A little soft and tropical, leaning on banana and a fake sort of bubblegum notion of peach, but smooth and flowing. The texture is utterly seductive, but the content of that texture just isn’t that interesting. (10/10)

Nókő Ono

Disznókő 2006 Dry Tokaji (Hungary) – Forbiddingly reduced at first unscrewing, but this does blow off. I’m not sure the wine’s worth the wait, though…under the reduction is a little wan oxidation, a squirt of spritz, some undefined tartness, and a big, flat, horizonless plain of not very much. Nothing wrong, but nothing particularly right. It’s wine. That’s about as far as I’ll praise it. (10/10)

Xil out

Telmo Rodriguez “Gaba do Xil” 2007 Valdeorras Godello (Northwest Spain) – Quite vibrant, pacing somewhere between a bronzed firmness and an abandoned, yet two-dimensional, still life of beach living. Quite flavorful, but never tripping over itself into a stumbling, clumsy drunkenness. Fun, but a slightly more sophisticated version thereof. (10/10)

A Duzer of a wine

Van Duzer 1999 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – There was a time when I quite liked this house. And then there was a time where everything they made seemed wretched. This was from the first era, and though it has mostly clung and lingered rather than blossomed, it’s still not bad. A fair bit more menthololic and herbal than pinot noir of only eleven years should be, with all the stripped-down structure but few of the developed berry-leaf aromatics that one expects. Still, it’s pretty enough, in an overly freckled sort of way. Drink up, and soon. (10/10)

Owl service

Zind-Humbrecht 2001 Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim (Alsace) – Somewhere in here, there’s a finely-poised, iron-rich, balanced expression of riesling. Unfortunately, it’s layered in lush coverlets of velour and gravity. Not, as ZH’s wines go, at all bad. Quite nice, actually. But way too heavy for its inherent presence. (10/10)

Islay me down to sleep

The MacPhail’s Selected Single Distilleries Collection (Bunnahabhain) 8 Year Scotch (Islay) – Boring. How do you make an Islay whisky boring? Well: exhibit A. Iodine, but only just, with a clammy boredom resting atop an alcoholic nonentity. The most “flavor” of the three from this lineup that I’ve tried, but in service of naught. (10/10)

Tamdhu the right thing, some don't

The MacPhail’s Selected Single Distilleries Collection (Tamdhu) 8 Year Scotch (Speyside) – Boring, with a side of tedium. Sweet and a little vegetal. Still boring, after all these words. (10/10)


The MacPhail’s Selected Single Distilleries Collection (Highland Park) 8 Year Scotch (Orkney) – Boring, though slightly less so than its stablemates. A little sweetness, a little spice, a little of not enough that’s nice. Just barely worth the $25 I paid for it, though one of the better blended whiskys would have been just as good, and probably cheaper. (10/10)


Jasmin 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Just as bad as the rest of the bottles, though there’s still that fleeting, two- or three-minute flirtation with a lovely, entirely typical aroma of meat and violets. I’m not going to open these to drink anymore (I still have five, I think), but in the absence of actual flaws I think they might make decent enough cooking wines. As it, they’re merely an expensive lesson in unguarded enthusiasm for too-good-to-be-true pricing on older wines. (10/10)


Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Réserve” (Alsace) – Vibrant, striking, and à point. Steel and iron driven into a spike, then speared through metal-jacketed apples. Mineralistic, austere, and wonderful. Such a difference when Trimbach controls the grapes, vs. the regular yellow label. Mature, but there’s no particular hurry, and a fantastic preview of what’s going to be (actually, already is) unbelievable quality from the top 2001 rieslings at Trimbach. (10/10)

Trimbach 2001 Riesling (Alsace) – Very tenuous, barely clinging to a flaky, eroded metallic life. Drink up by the end of 2007. (Oops!) (10/10)


Ravenswood 1999 “Icon” (Sonoma County) – 13.9% alcohol, 73% syrah, 16% mourvèdre, 11% grenache, and 100% heralding the ubiquitous plague of fat-bottomed bottles that fit or stack nowhere. Much more decent than I’d expected, but then I didn’t expect much. It tastes like generic semi-aged California wine, which is to say it’s still simplistically dark-fruited with most of the structure polished away, yet has gained no real complexity or interest over its youthful self. Yes, it’s still not very old, but given that the structure has already faded I see no indication that longer aging will do more than damage to the wine. There’s an element of greenness to it that I’d like to think might be complexity in a differently-composed wine, but I don’t expect green in California versions of any of the above-listed grapes, and so I’m inclined to think that the grapes weren’t all they could have been. Which might account for an alcohol level that, through the lens of today’s monstrosities, seems entirely reasonable. (10/10)

Miner girls

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Dying. I’ve heard fond words about a recently-consumed early-eighties version, but this is on its last amputated leg. (10/10)

Miss Châtelaine

Domaine de la Cadette 2007 Bourgogne Vézelay Blanc “La Châtelaine” (Burgundy) – Sharp, angrily acidic, full of underripe heirloom pommes and none of the helter-skelter terroir that has so often characterized this wine, which I very frequently adore. Bad vintage, or bad batch? Doesn’t matter…after two bottles of identical form, I’m fobbing the rest. (10/10)

Zooty, zoot zoot

Pratello 2004 “Rebo” (Lombardy) – Fairly anonymous worldbeat rosso, indistinct as to grape, region, and intent (other than making money without trying very hard), but with a little more acid than usual. Um, yay? Sharp, dark fruit. Yeah, yeah, yeah. (10/10)

Sofia Vergombera

Verdi 2007 Oltrepò Pavese Bonarda “Possessione di Vergombera” (Lombardy) – Geez, is this the opposite of prosaic or what? Like some of the brittle northern Piedmontese reds, this makes a case for being a tinted version of riesling, but then subverts it with straps and lashes of tannin and an incisored chomp of reddish fruit. Now, I’ve gotten to this point in the note without mentioning its two dominant characteristics: residual sugar and aggressive, somewhat sloppy (like an overeager dog slobbering on your face) fizz. For me, honestly, there’s far too much distraction and flail in this wine for actual enjoyment, but at least the ride is on the breathtaking side. At a festive gathering, this might be a lot more appropriate than it was at my dinner table. (10/10)

Lie Atwater

Ollivier “Domaine de la Pépière” 2008 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” (Loire) – As shelled a wine as I’ve ever tasted from Ollivier, and I’ve tasted a lot of mollusks from this producer. Straightforward, and yet it dances a bit with food, changing the step when one least expects it. Undemanding, perhaps, but not at all uninteresting. (10/10)

Haegelen, just a little bit

Haegelen-Jayer 1999 Nuits-St-Georges “1er Cru” Les Damodes (Burgundy) – Starts a little tentatively, then grows into its maturity. Soft, lavender-hued fruit and rich, tilled soil abound; the wine’s gentle, but there’s a strength behind it as well, though the muscles might not flex as they once did. Fully mature, but note the caveat: this bottle is a recent acquisition from closeout and so I cannot verify its provenance. (10/10)

There's a train a-comin'

Berkshire Brewing Co. “Steel Rail” Extra Pale Ale (Massachusetts) – A bar I frequent in my summer months used to serve this on draft, to my great joy. Alas, my joy was not shared, and the tap now pours something of less interest. This is a powerful, flavorful ale, full of spice, richness, and presence; it feels Belgian, even though it’s not by geography or construction. (10/10)

The mead for speed

Artesano Mead (Vermont) – 500 ml. Very floral. I know that, by definition, all mead is more or less floral, but this is really flowery, as if the bees got pollinated wind of a warehouse clearance sale on microgametophytes. It’s good, but I think it might be of more use doled out in very small amounts, or perhaps used in cooking. (10/10)


Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Imperial Porter (Vermont) – I used to love porter, but now I tend to find it an in-between style that’s not as appealing to me as something clearer or something more opaque. This is a fair brew, browned and nutty with a caramelized anise lacquer, but I can’t quite warm to it. (10/10)

09 December 2010

Bollen alley

Albrecht 1998 Gewurztraminer Bollenberg (Alsace) – Drying, strappy, and tannic. All things a gewurztraminer can be when it ages, and whether they’re positive or negative depends on the rest. Which, here, is a kinky mélange of spiced banana skin, fuzzy peach, and copper bullets racing down a wind tunnel. Texturally inimitable, in a way, for true skin-contact whites are way more palpable than this, while most everything else would rely more on acid (or its lack) for structure. I kinda love it, but it’s a complicated love. (9/10)

One more

Occhipinti 2008 “SP68” (Sicily) – Outrageously drinkable. Quaffable, even. Gluggable. Slurpable. Etc., etc., etc. Were it about half the cost, I’d request that this be piped into my house in lieu of public water. Pure liquid joy. (9/10)

Chopped logs

Brokenwood 2005 Semillon (Hunter Valley) – 10.5% alcohol. Grassy, a little sweaty, and strongly-flavored for all the wine’s lightness of body. (10/10)


Bricco Mondalino 2007 Barbera del Monferrato Superiore (Piedmont) – Bright red-berry acidity, apple juice, gravelly minerality, and all the freshness married to light complexity one could want. Why do more barbera producers not make wines like this, instead churning out anonymous inanities lathered with oak and size? (9/10)

And scratchy

Iché “Château d’Oupia” 2007 Minervois (Languedoc) – I really did not care for this wine at release, and was suspicious about what I’d find. My fears were unfounded; it’s as classic an Oupia Minervois as any other, dark and soil-browed, with the faintest tinge of an herbal licorice to the dark fruit and meat-roasting spices. I don’t know that I’d call the wine “expressive,” but it does express something…and quite clearly, too. (9/10)

Old currency

Bossard “Domaine de l’Ecu” 2003 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” “Expression de Gneiss” (Loire) – Thick for a Muscadet (no real surprise there), but in that thickness is a powerful, insistent minerality that has also been concentrated beyond Muscadet’s wont. Dry, then sweet, then dry again…likely, in all cases, a mere illusion of density. One could do a lot worse from mostly-oppressive French 2003s than this bottle. (9/10)


Collard “Chateau La Tour de Beraud” 2009 Costières de Nimes Blanc (Rhône) – Bubblegum (yes, in a Rhône white) and sweet golden raspberries. Perhaps peaches. And yet, brisker than those two fairly sticky fruit numerators. There’s gluggable appeal here, but ignore the horizon. (9/10)


Rippon 2001 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Still fruity (figs, mostly, which is an interesting place for a pinot noir to go), though there’s some concentrated plum hanging about as well. Tastes warm in the way New World versions of this grape often do, and about as mature as I think one would want it; tannins have fully softened but acids are not yet exposed. The finish, which hints at licorice but never quite gets there, is surprisingly long. This was a wine I underestimated when I tasted it at release, thinking it more simple-minded than it turned out to be. (9/10)

Jean Vaumoreau

Druet 1996 Bourgueil Vaumoreau (Loire) – Clinging by the tiniest nanometer of a fingernail to life. At least, that’s the story for the first few hours or so, in which the wine’s complete unsuitability for acidphobes is fully asserted. Sitting in the bottle, minus a few pours, it develops and grows for a long while, finally emerging with a cohesive but still extremely gentle blend of earth and herb in slow braise, westering into a long night. (9/10)

Duc of Url

Gras “Domaine Santa Duc” 1995 Gigondas “Prestige des Hautes Garrigues” (Rhône) – Spiced bubblegum and herbs in sweet vanilla tea. Later, it’s herbed coffee. Somewhere in the middle, there’s a bit of wild game. Its appeal is open and overt, and perhaps it tries too hard, but I really enjoy the result. (9/10)

Wear a Côtes

Tablas Creek 2006 “Côtes de Tablas” Blanc (Paso Robles) – The bronzed stone fruit has not diminished in intensity since release, but it has taken on a deeper, richer tone, the metallics have been somewhat energized, and there’s more soil in evidence. This is a heavy wine in the grand scheme, though decidedly not so in its local idiom, and is still quite luscious and even a little blowsy. I’m convinced that age will continue to turn this wine, but those who require upfront fruit may want to think about drinking sooner rather than later. (9/10)

To Grand Mont's house we go

Druet 1997 Bourgueil “Cuvée Grand Mont” (Loire) – The fruit that was once fulsome (for a Bourgueil) has mostly passed into history, but lovers of the gentle and faded will still appreciate what remains. Fairly acidic in terms of its overall balance, but that’s more a result of general decay than it is a comment on the wine’s inherent acidity. There’s greenness, yes, but also a memory of black fruit, a range of dusts that may include the occasional white peppercorn, and a slow glide into passage. There’s no reason to hold this any longer, unless your tastes run necrotic…and I realize that some will indeed hold the wine in search of that very quality. (9/10)

The knife

Sipp Mack 2007 Riesling “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Juicy. There’s a certain softness to this bottling that carries though vintages, but the modulating acidity is almost always just enough to keep it fresh. This is young enough that its minerality, bare-boned and stark, still lies beneath primary layers of ground cover. Give it some time in the cellar; a few years, maybe. (9/10)

To serve your love

Soucherie 2009 Anjou Blanc “Cuvée Les Rangs de Long” (Loire) – Approaches in softness but rapidly firms up, gripping and enveloping with a fine chalk/acid interplay, then releasing and lingering as a blend of powdery soils. Quite long. (9/10)


Shipyard “Pugsley’s Signature Series” “Smashed Pumpkin” Ale (Maine) – Kind of the neutron bomb of pumpkin ales, absolutely exploding with both the raw and spiced versions of the squash, and yet managing to hold onto its ale status just enough for one to remember that this is a beer, not a Halloween soup. Pretty extraordinary. That said, I doubt everyone will like it; it’s really a lot to take. (9/10)

Michael, Royaux the boat ashore

Fèvre 2004 Chablis “Champs Royaux” (Chablis) – A forceful mineral hash leavened by a surprising thickness and a buttered corn quality that seems to be de rigueur at this house, even though I’d really prefer they leave it out. (9/10)

One Sipp at a time

Sipp Mack 2004 Riesling “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Soft minerality, just barely enough acidity to compensate, and a wide, planar texture. Quite fair. (9/10)


Tentaka Kuni “Hawk in the Heavens” Junmai Sake (Japan) – 2007 is stamped on the bottle…I think. It’s very faint, and obscured by characters. The sake, however, is not obscured by character...it is a character, dancing and leaping around the palate in a way that, at least in my experience, is pretty unusual for the genre. Do I like it? Yes, it’s pleasant enough. (9/10)

Us and Brézème

Texier 2008 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème (Rhône) – The terroir that carried so much of the early (American) hype for Texier probably did more than any of his wines to permanently offend certain segments of the curious. No one familiar with the wine need ask why, but for the rest: it’s the acid, of course. That fierce, brittle, insistent acid. This is the Cantillon of Côtes-du-Rhône, and the uncompromising nature of it means that, at times, even fans will struggle to wrap their palates around it. There’s so much to recommend here…soil and sharp fruit, delineation and character…but either beat it back with acidic food or stick it in a dark corner of the cellar. Of course, only one of these things actually tames the acidity. The other just dresses it with different, and ultimately more interesting, outerwear. (9/10)

Black dirt

Rogue “Chatoe Rogue” Dirtoir Black Lager “First Growth” (Oregon) – There’s a lot going on with that name. Perhaps more than is going on with the beer, though there’s a wrinkly appeal to its heart (and skin, and organs) of darkness. I like it, but I wouldn’t want to drink it in mass quantities. (9/10)

Inflorescence Inhenderson

Cédric Bouchard Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut “Inflorescence” (Champagne) – Ethereal and restrained despite the dark, spicy fruit within. Frothy, and yet the elegance is sometimes a bit much. I find myself wishing for a bit more presence, and then thinking I’m being way too hard on a basically compelling wine. It’s the hype, what does it… (9/10)

Benjamin Isasco

Crena 2008 Riviera Ligure di Ponente Vermentino Vigneto Isasco (Liguria) – People who insist Italian whites are worthless are…well, they’re idiots, but they’re apparently also idiots who’ve never tasted a vermentino. Even in its paler, more industrial expressions, there’s plenty going on. When given a little more attention and terroir, I fail to understand how anyone could not, at least, appreciate the goings-on. Here, there’s grayish-tan soil, a lot of sun (but with shadows lurking in corners and crannies), a light oxidativeness that adds rather than detracts, and plenty of complexity and interest to hold attention. Not a great vermentino, but certainly a good one. (9/10)

Tom the slasher

Ravenswood 1996 Zinfandel Old Hill (Sonoma Valley) – The lingering remnants of the time when Ravenswood made great wines are wending their way towards the great aquifer in the sky ground, and so they need to be savored on their increasingly rare appearances. Alas that this isn’t one. Volatile acidity (at Carlisle-like levels, mind), blackberry, dusty earth, and a whole lot of desiccation. Texturally anti-quenching, and beyond fully mature, even from the glacial cellar whence this comes. (9/10)

Tree? No.

Château du Trignon 1998 Gigondas (Rhône) – Difficult, cranky, and ultimately awkward. Salted peanuts? Yeah, maybe. Nothing else makes a lick of sense, nor even attempts to. Dunno what happened here. (9/10)

I can bear a Mundi

Pionero Mundi 2008 Rias Baixas Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Lemon, grass, curd, and sunshine. (9/10)


Vajra 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba “coste & fossati” (Piedmont) – This is the one wine in the Vajra portfolio that I just can’t quite figure out, and yet I keep buying bottles expecting some sort of revelation that never quite arrives. Dark fruit, chewy and structured, with a brace of acids and a long tail of razored feathers. A little lacking in the midpalate. Good, but not (at least for me) one of Vajra’s more joyful efforts. (9/10)

Have your Scottish terriers Speysided and neutered

The Speyside Scotch Whisky 12 Year (Speyside) – Iodine, but not too much. Peat, but not too much. Flavor, but not too much. Sweet oak? Yeah, there’s a lot of that. Straightforward, really. (9/10)

08 December 2010

Roally world

Goyard “Domaine de Roally” 1999 Mâcon-Villages “Tradition” (Mâcon) – Heavy. Lush, hinting at a syrupy texture but with a preserved lime-influenced fruit that cuts against that weight. Botrytized? Possibly. Whether or no, it’s nicely mature at this stage, though I don’t suppose lovers of more decrepit chardonnay will be in any hurry. (8/10)

Mens' lawn

Gaillard 2002 Saint-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – Bitter and woody. Absolutely horrid. Why did I hold something with a synthetic cork for this long? Argh. (9/10)

Gaillard 2002 Saint-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – Less trashed than the previous bottle (and thankfully, this is my last), but still heavily oxidized due to entirely predictable closure failure. That is, predictable if I’d thought to yank the capsules off and look. But who puts plastic plugs in a wine that should have been able to age? Oh, right: screwcap-fearing French winemakers, that’s who… (10/10)


Quinta do Noval Tawny Porto (Douro) – Among the (relatively) big producers whose Portos are widely available, this is the only one I find reliable enough for constant resupply. This is not one of the house’s superior efforts, but it’s still tasty enough. Sweet caramels and brown sugars, pleasant and inviting, with the afterburn well-handled. (9/10)

Steindorfer on golf

Steindorfer 2009 Pinot Gris Fuschloch (Burgenland) – Surprisingly Alsatian in weight, if not aromatic profile, with more lusciousness than I’m used to from Austrian versions. The pear is bare and unspiced, however, which definitely takes it out of Alsace, and there’s rather more light within this wine than is typical elsewhere. Pleasant, and since it’s very hard to convince pinot gris to be more than that, good enough. (9/10)


Texier 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Corked. (9/10)


Philippe Gilbert 2007 Menetou-Salon Rouge (Loire) – Corked. (9/10)

Auld lang syne

Ommegang “Cup O Kyndnes” Scotch Ale (New York) – Heavy, as befits the category, but I’ve never had a domestic version of this style that I thought really captured the balanced weight of the original, and this is no exception. Sweet metal and armored stone fruit with a sandy finish. And, in case it needs stressing, quite boozy. (9/10)

Green tea

Montevertine 2002 “Montevertine” (Tuscany) – This is just so supple and approachable that the structure almost goes unnoticed. But eventually, get noticed it does, and it’s where the frayed edges and deficiencies of the wine show. Maturing quickly enough that, if I owned any more, I’d be thinking about getting to the rest of it. For all the previous talk of insufficiency, though, there’s plenty to like about the soft red fruit and earthy spice of the wine. Drink up, though. (9/10)

Litigate against one's love

Soucherie 2008 Anjou Blanc (Loire) – There’s a disjointed soft/sharp duality to this wine for which one has to be in the mood, as each element tries to pull the wine in a different direction. The softness is chalky and powder-textured, the sharpness is extremely clean and characterless (I don’t mean that as a negative; it’s more of a null-space acidity than it is a particularly malic or other sort of tart). Nice enough, but kind of a particular wine. (9/10)

All Chambord

Cazin 2007 Cheverny “Le Petit Chambord” (Loire) – Not appealing in any way, which is a surprising enough result that I have to wonder about the integrity of this particular bottle. Sharp, a little wrenched, herbal and sweaty. There’s minerality, but there’s even more that’s unpleasant. This just can’t be right. (9/10)

Canine pesce tête

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (Delaware) – I almost never like brown ales all that much, and this weirdo brewery’s attempt does not change my mind. Tan-flavored, tan-colored, tan-mooded. Yes, I know that’s not a word. (9/10)

Amber, gris

Trimbach 2004 Ribeauvillé Pinot Gris “Réserve” (Alsace) – The non-prestige bottlings from Trimbach in 2004 have been uniformly excellent, for whatever reason, and this is no exception. When this wine is on, there’s a beautiful poise between the rounded pear fruit, dark iron-quartz minerality, spice, and acidity that’s still not “crisp,” exactly, but is more than sufficient to carry the rest of the package. Really nice, and showing absolutely no change from a year ago. Holding it might prove rewarding, but I guess we’ll see. (9/10)

Trimbach 2005 Ribeauvillé Pinot Gris “Réserve” (Alsace) – Big. All the expected elements are there, but the wine just can’t quite support its own weight. Finishes a little hot. There’s so much stuff here that I’d be tempted to recommend the calming effects of age, but I just don’t know about the sheer leadenness of the wine. (9/10)

Colla cab

Poderi Colla 2007 Langhe Freisa (Piedmont) – Freisa comes in a fair range of styles, though it’s almost never clear which one is going to get without actually opening the bottle. Here’s one of the tight-frothed, almost slushy versions, reminiscent of its spiritual (if not actually related) peers among the lambrusco set. The vibrancy and intense pong of the violent purple churn – as intense as any fruit bomb but with light and verve rather than weight and tedium – is astew with violets and exotic pepper dust. Really, really fun. (9/10)

Hugues Johnson

Hugues Beaulieu “Les Costières de Pomerols” 2009 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc) – As reliable a bargain wine as there is these days, crisply green and succulent, driving its sharp point home with one sharp thrust and then letting it rest. Uncomplicated and amenable. (9/10)

Seven stages of K

Kubler 2008 Pinot Blanc “K” (Alsace) – Fairly firm, with a good deal of acidity countrapuntal to the stark off-white fruit. This is a guess, but as a rule this sort of profile indicates a preference towards actual pinot blanc rather than the traditional blending partner auxerrois, which fattens and en-fruits. This is pretty bare, and washes as much as it fills. There’s minerality, and I’d hazard a guess that there will be more in a few years, but it’s an ungenerous walk on the tart side at the moment. (9/10)

Roilette paper

Coudert "Clos de la Roilette" 2005 Fleurie (Beaujolais) – The precise nature of the maturation here is a little difficult to describe. Perhaps a fist, just starting to unclench and letting a little light shine through the interstitials, is the best analogy. It’s not exactly generous, but it’s generously fruited, and the softness that the wine had always brought to an otherwise fairly structured package has not changed; all the development has been wrought within the wine’s structure. There is so far from any hurry to get to this wine. (9/10)


Cheveau 2007 Beaujolais-Villages “Or Rouge” (Beaujolais) – Cherries and apples, with the succulent tang that characterizes the more straightforward genre of Beaujolais, the most ardent fans of which are much more enraptured by the complexities of the crus these days. But there’s a lot of value in these deft, well-turned short stories…chief among them the incredible cut and barb they provide in counterpoint to food. (9/10)

Barral of fun

Leon Barral 2004 Faugères (Languedoc) – Warm fruit, earthen and well-rested, enveloping and just in the right position between rural gentility and a more modern, almost culinary appeal. Nice wine. I wouldn’t really go beyond that. (9/10)

Built less

Biltmore Pinot Noir (America) – Fetid armpit glazed like a donut. Pretty horrifying. (9/10)


Velenosi “Querci Antica” 2008 “Visicole” (Marches) – 500 ml, and aromatized in the manner of a chinato. Only, not so much. It’s more sweet than bitter, as if some odd alchemist had decided to blend a sweet red, a chinato, and one of the sweeter amari, and then thought better of it and stopped before following through to any one of a number of possible conclusions. The result is interesting but a little bereft of persistent interest. (9/10)

Sobon mot

Sobon Estate 2008 Zinfandel “Old Vines” (Amador County) – 14.9%. A reliably slightly-better-than-mediocre bargain zin, here a little better than that. Wiry and brambly, with the pine woodsy character of the region, and as much bite as it has (at least in my memory) ever shown. Tasty, though it neither demands nor offers much. (9/10)


Podere Castorani 2009 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo “Majolica” (Abruzzi) –It’s wine. It’s red. It’s drinkable. It’s drinkable red wine. (8/10)

Episode 4

New Hope Riesling (Pennsylvania) – Identifiably of its variety, with the over-reliance on goop and stick so common to off-region versions fully present. A little green, a little herbal, and a little woody (akin to a woody apple’s texture, I mean, not oak). Not entirely bad, and quite drinkable, but the “for a Pennsylvania riesling” contextualization applies. (8/10)

Greco-Roman Rousseling

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2007 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – I like these young about 50% of the time, thinking the other half insufficient, and am repeatedly proven wrong by even a little bit of maturation (which is all I’ll allow under this closure), so my generalized displeasure with this bottle should be taken to mean absolutely nothing. It’s the tangy red fruit and earth that make the wine, and the grating, flaky, stale peppercorns and overaged herbs that ruin it. And the next bottle will be spectacular. I’m blaming taster variation rather than any of the usual suspects. (8/10)

Cattin around

Joseph Cattin 2008 Pinot Gris (Alsace) – Sweet pear, thinned and goopified, with just enough spice to redeem. Not particularly interesting, though. I know it’s just a basic Alsatian pinot gris, and this is what gets in that category these days, but while it’s a better cocktail wine than the horrid, tasteless pinot grigio that so many quaff, it’s still not that good. (8/10)

A regular blowing of cork

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Corked. (8/10)

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Unlike the last few bottles, which have been more or less on the early side of ready, this is years from that state. Coconut, blackberry juice, dust, primary tannin. Tastes like a 2004 (well, except for the fact that the 2004 can be an overwooded yak-fest) more than a 1999. This bottle should have been left to sleep for another five or ten years. (10/10)

Hospices by hospices

Hospices de Beaune 1993 Marc de Bourgogne (Burgundy) – As red-Burgundian as a marc can be, full of the lovely blended fruit and autumnal richness of a nicely-aged wine and a warmness that never tips over into burn. (8/10)

Let it Gros

Pascal “Gros’Noré” 1999 Bandol (Provence) – The odd match of maturing, meaty/liquorous “fruit” and an incisored bite of tannin that typify Bandol in its adolescent stage. It’s not young any more, but the hurry to get to it will very much depend on how much one craves animal juice. It’s forceful for a Bandol, wrapping itself in a few more layers of herbed foil than might be normal at this stage. I like it, but I’ll like it more in a decade, I suspect. (8/10)


Montevertine 2006 “Pian del Ciampolo” (Tuscany) – The usual beautiful, soft red fruit with the fine particulate texture somewhere between earth and spice. Hints of vegetation, still a fair (but gentle) wash of tannin, balanced all around. This is good now, but it’ll be a fair bit better a few years down the road. (8/10)

Brown meat patty

Fritz Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 0 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Ever more cylindrical and starting to dust up, which is a quality I like to find in riesling as it ages. A little more confident than the last bottle, which suggests gradual emergence into a more interesting stage. (8/10)


Kreydenweiss 2000 Pinot Gris Clos Rebberg “Aux Vignes” “Sélections de Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – 500 ml. Pear, peach, and hints of red fruit all sticky and gummy. Honestly, this is still OK, but has gone nowhere beneficial or interesting over the time it’s spent in my cellar. Drink six years ago for best effect. (8/10)


Buronfosse Crémant du Jura Rosé (Jura) – Bony, eroded, and stark, with only notions and memories to tell its story. (8/10)


Hobo 2008 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Vallley) – 14.7%. Grainy and fuzzy, its (decent enough) black fruit and strappy, faux-leather structure clenched into a pixilated fist. On the other hand, it’s not really worth that level of verbiage. It’s fruity with some structure. A little dark. (8/10)


Cascina Roera 2004 Barbera d’Asti Cardin (Piedmont) – The first barbera I’ve been able to convince myself to drink since tasting zillions of them in the Piedmont, and just about the only reason I’m able to do so is the importer (Adonna), whose wines don’t traffic in the misplaced ambition and sloppy internationalization that plagued so very many in that tasting. This is one of the pushed-fruit examples – not traditional and crisp, but not sloppily internationalized either – and handles both that fruit and a listed 15% alcohol (I wouldn’t be surprised were the actual number a bit higher) very well, with dark-berry fruit dominating the lighter, redder elements, but still keeping that fruit firmly in the realm of berries rather than something more luxuriant. There’s a bit of soil, some pepper, even some nearly licorice-like concentration that does put me in mind of similar genre-straddling wines in Valpolicella. It’s very good. Not cheap, but doing its best to live up to its price without extravagance, and there’s every indication that it might age for a little while. (8/10)

Sour grapes

Marian Farms California Style Pisco (California) – Orange bubblegum. In a pisco? Welcome to California! Sweet and soft; not bad, necessarily, but certainly not what any knowledgeable pisco drinker is looking for. (8/10)

The librarian

Marian Farms “Epirito de la Valda” Brandy “Private Reserve” (California) – Supple, with good acidity and a fun side. Lots of wood, though. A little more than it can handle. (8/10)

Egly-Mae Clampett

Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru Brut Tradition (Champagne) – Dry, dry, dry. Apricot skins and apple skins, lightly bitter and rather desolate, It never really improves past this point. A very, very particular Champagne for which I can’t say I care, at least in the form of this bottle. (8/10)

Peay in a cup

Edmunds St. John 2001 Zinfandel Peay (Sonoma County) – 15.2%, and unfortunately volatile acidity has completely taken over. Other bottles (and tasters) may experience different results, but for me this is undrinkable, alas; I very much enjoyed the penultimate bottle (which was tasted just a few years ago), but this is my last one and so I guess I’m unlikely to taste an intact version again. (8/10)

Or, chat high

Barthod 2002 Chambolle-Musigny “1er Cru” Les Chatelots (Burgundy) – Primary, still, with a New Zealandish aroma of beet-infused macerated berries, but then plunging down a rollercoaster of earthy aromatics and portended complexity. Young, still. No surprise there. (8/10)

Tuffeaux the sheaux

Chidaine 2005 Montlouis-sur-Loire “Les Tuffeaux” (Loire) – Soft and perfumed, with tissue-thin layers of leafy something-or-other through which one slowly drifts, searching for something tangible. Which never comes. Closed? Yeah, sure, why not? Certainly not particularly interesting at the moment. (8/10)


Ca’ de Noci a Quattro Castella 2007 “Sottobosco” (Emilia-Romagna) – Blackcurrant vinegar and raw pepper dust, trapped under an avalanche of ash with someone who hasn’t cleansed their armpits in…well, years. Grossly imbalanced in terms of both acid and tannin. Awful. This can’t be what this is supposed to taste like, can it? (8/10)

Ameztoi soldiers

Amesguren “Ameztoi” 2009 Getariako Txakolina Rubentis (Northwest Spain) – Fizzy, chalky, fizzy, short, fizzy, drawing down to its finale, and fizzy. Did I mention the fizz? Bites more than purrs, nipping and snapping at every approach. (8/10)

Of 4

Duffort “Château La Moutète” 2009 Côtes de Provence Rosé “Grande Réserve” (Provence) – Grows as it airs, tinting its peaches green throughout. Nice. Not really more than that, but still nice. (8/10)

Coudert town

Coudert “Clos de la Roilette” 2009 Fleurie (Beaujolais) – I really don’t like this, and the reason isn’t immediately identifiable, other than the fact it doesn’t taste like much aside from a very basic notion of Beaujolais. Undoubtedly not right in some fashion, and another bottle is required. (8/10)

Fromm here to eternity

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir Clayvin (Marlborough) – As mature as one would want it, I think. The berries, strong and lavishly-structured, have not fully developed into something more autumnal, but those equinoxal notes are present, the tannin is still a throb but no longer deadening, and there are baked and sunset aspects to both aroma and finish. This turned out not to be the ager I might have predicted (though this bottle is from a recent store closeout, and thus of doubtful provenance), but has turned out to reward what aging it has accomplished. (8/10)

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir Clayvin (Marlborough) – Almost exactly like the previous bottle, except with more fruit-to-underbrush development, and a more appealing texture. (8/10)